The head of London’s Serpentine Galleries, Yana Peel, resigned on Tuesday following a newspaper report about her links to a controversial Israeli spyware firm.
The board of trustees of the contemporary art galleries announced “with a mix of gratitude and regret” that it has accepted Peel’s resignation, adding that she would be “sorely missed”.
In a separate statement carried by The Guardian newspaper, Peel referenced a “concerted lobbying campaign against my husband’s recent investment”.
The Guardian reported last week that Yana Peel co-owns NSO Group, a spyware company based in the Israeli seaside high-tech hub of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.
It has faced questions over its Pegasus software, which can reportedly switch on a target’s cell phone camera and microphone, and access data on it, effectively turning the phone into a pocket spy.
Security researchers believe it was used in an attack on the WhatsApp messaging app in May.
The company has also been forced to deny it was used against Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before he was killed last October in Istanbul.
“The work of the Serpentine — and its incomparable artistic director — cannot be allowed to be undermined by misguided personal attacks on me and my family,” Peel said, according to the statement.
“These attacks are based upon inaccurate media reports now subject to legal complaints.”
Peel said she was saddened to leave the role, which she started in 2016, adding: “The world of art is about free expression.
“But it is not about bullying and intimidation. I welcome debate and discussion about the realities of life in the digital age.
“There is a place for these debates, but they should be constructive, fair and factual — not based upon toxic personal attacks.”